My girlfriend really wants to have sex. When I told her I didn’t think I was ready, she started crying and said all guys wanted sex. Now she doesn’t believe that I think she’s attractive. But I do! Am I being weird by saying no to sex? How can I convince her I DO want to have sex with her—just not right now?

First, it’s great that you’re thinking about whether you want and are ready for sex. Taking the time to check in with yourself like this is super healthy. Keep it up!

Second, it’s totally normal and ok to not want sex right now.

Just because your girlfriend wants sex doesn’t mean you need to. Different people feel comfortable with different things at different times in their lives. You don’t need to have a reason to not want to have sex—whether it’s the first time or the hundredth.

However, it’s not a surprise that you think it might be weird that you don’t want sex. There are a lot of false ideas in our culture about guys’ sexuality. One of them is that guys ALWAYS want sex. This is ridiculous and totally false.

This stereotype is also really harmful.

It makes guys like you think something is wrong with them for not wanting sex 24/7. Even worse, it creates the idea that men can’t be sexually assaulted (after all, they wanted it!) when in reality 1 out of every 10 rape victims is male.

It sounds like your girlfriend may have been exposed to this stereotype (because who hasn’t?) and believes it. Because of this, she may think that the only way you wouldn’t want sex with her is if you weren’t attracted to her. It may take some time to convince her that it’s completely normal for guys to not always want sex. She may also be dealing with her own questions about whether she’s attractive or loveable.

Of course, there may be something else going on entirely.

The only real way to figure out what she’s thinking is to talk to her. Explain that guys can have a complicated relationship to sex just like girls do. Show her this column, if you want. There are lots of other, non-sexy ways to be intimate. Suggest a few of them, and see if spending some quality time together lessens your girlfriend’s concerns.

It’s ok for your girlfriend to express how she feels about your relationship. It’s NOT ok for her to make you feel bad, or to pressure or manipulate you into having sex. That is coercion, and it’s NOT ok. Remember that only you can decide when you’re ready to have sex—not her. If she DOES do any of these things, talk to her about her actions. Explain how upset her behavior is making you, and why it’s wrong.

If she still doesn’t change her behavior, think about your relationship overall.

Is it healthy? Do you respect each other’s decisions in other contexts? Or does she frequently push you to do things you don’t want to, put you down, or ignore what you want? These are NOT healthy relationship behaviors. If your girlfriend does these things frequently in an effort to gain power and control in your relationship, it could even be emotional abuse. Think hard about whether you want to stay in this relationship. If you decide you DO want to stay together with her, make sure that you keep a look out for any red flags. You can learn more about healthy relationships here and here.

It sounds like you’re pretty in touch with yourself, but if you need some help figuring out whether you’re ready for sex in the future, we talk more about it here and here.

If you have any other questions about healthy relationships, sexual health, or anything else, you can make a free, confidential appointment at Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center. We provide free, non-judgmental, integrated health care to 10-22 year olds in NYC.

A version of this post was originally published in September, 2017.